Let’s Talk About Blogs: The Onion

Onion

Time for one of my personal favourite blogs/news sites: The Onion. This blog is certainly the shining example of Political Satire, if nothing else. The reports do concern a number of recent events and can provide the news in a roundabout way, but most everything concerning The Onion is falsified and simply written for the sake of satire itself.

The Onion concerns itself largely with current events – and like all other blogs right now, the Boston Marathon Bombings take up a majority of the recent posts to the site. As is the norm with many humor sites, there are some language issues and (depending on how offensive you find swearing) may be best to avoid if you’d rather have the hard facts on reporting. However, seeing as reporters haven’t exactly wowed anyone with their deductive reasoning lately, The Onion may be just as good a source for your news as any other accredited station.

BREAKING

Semi-Detailed Review

General Theme: Satirical

Political Slant: Left

Cite Sources? Not typically.

How does the blog’s information compare to the newspaper? The paper certainly competes with quantity of news reports, but is somewhat higher on the scale of quality. Don’t go to The Onion for your news.

What you didn’t like: I love this site. There’s nothing for me to hate here.

A link to a specific post you felt was interesting: Next Week’s School Shooting Victims Thank Senate for Failing to Pass Gun Bill.

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Let’s Talk About Blogs: Little Green Footballs

GreenFootballs

The minimalistic theme of Little Green Footballs was a bit bland for my tastes, but it didn’t stop the posts from being quite colourful and – a number of times – shocking. The blog is – like Daily Kos – a compilation of multiple authors reporting on similarly-minded subjects. However, unlike Kos, this blog seems highly-dedicated to pointing out the mistakes which mass media tends to make in reporting. Right now, it’s been dominated by the Boston Marathon Bombings, but they do offer a good place which pulls everything together in a clear picture.

Again, this is a socio-political or economic blog dependent on who the author is and what the latest happenings in the world are. It seems to be an entertaining blog to those who enjoy a bit more abrupt reporting or who like to confer with others about how ridiculous large media corporations can be. It’s one I would spend some time perusing, but I most likely wouldn’t be going back to check it out anytime soon.

Semi-Detailed Review

General Theme: Journalistic, Political, Media, Informative, Opinionated

Political Slant: Moderate to Left

Cite Sources? There are internal citations for most every article.

How does the blog’s information compare to the newspaper? There are probably too many opinions here to compete with real news, but the things reported are eye-opening and somewhat jaw-dropping.

What you didn’t like: I’m fine with the language and the voices, but the theme was the only truly grating thing to me. I personally dislike stark white pages.

A link to a specific post you felt was interesting: Anti-Muslim Demagogue Pamela Geller’s Firehose of Hate Speech. This is pretty much why I stay away from Wingnuts like Glen Beck and Pamela Geller.

Let’s Talk About Blogs: Daily Kos

KOS

I was, admittedly a bit wary when I first entered this blog’s website. An icon of a man waving a flag, articles with sarcastic and yet literal titles, copious amounts of sarcasm… I initially wondered what odd part of the net I had stumbled upon. As I scrolled through the posts, I became increasingly amused by the titles and articles being posted. 

Surprisingly enough, it is a very informative blog which addresses political, social, and economic issues through somewhat satirical blurbs and posts. The group of writers publishing to Daily Kos are well-versed in the discipline of what I like to call ‘eye-opening writing’, in which the author makes no point in sugar-coating the details to simply lay out the base of the issues at hand. It’s a fantastic blog full of things which make you go hmmmm… Definitely food for thought, if nothing else. This is an entertaining blog to read through.

Semi-Detailed Review

General Theme: Journalistic, Political, Informative

Political Slant: Moderate to Left? Because of the varying authors, there are varying voices and ideas. It’s difficult to pin a single one down.

Cite Sources? There are internal citations for most every article.

How does the blog’s information compare to the newspaper? It’s definitely more news-worthy than some of the things the newspaper reports, but I can’t speak much on the issue. I stopped reading the paper some time ago.

What you didn’t like: I can’t say there isn’t anything which bothered me about this site. I would definitely give it a 9/10 to 10/10 for its overall entertainment and information value.

A link to a specific post you felt was interesting: Not Necessarily the News. Finally, someone who shares my frustrations about the reports concerning the Boston Marathon Bombing over this past week.

Are Bloggers Journalists?

Hello once again. Today, we’ve been posed with a couple scenarios in order to determine whether or not a blogger is remotely similar to a journalist; and when I say anyone, I mean any blogger at all – whether it be myself, yourself, a twelve-year-old cat lover in Eastern New York… you get the idea. Are bloggers and journalists the same? At a glance, I would say no. But let’s run through our scenarios before we get to the boring stuff, shall we?

Scenario One

A reporter for a major newspaper reports – using anonymous sources – on a falsified government document. When the government agency attempts to force him to reveal his source, he refuses and is protected by a “shield law” which states that he does not have to reveal his sources. Meanwhile, a blogger breaks the exact same story at the exact same time. Should he receive the same protection? Would your answer change if you found out the blogger had been running a news and politics blog for years? What if she’d never posted a news story before but stumbled onto this one?

Alright; this one isn’t too bad. According to our Constitution under Amendment 1, all citizens are allowed a freedom of speech. Because of this, it’s safe to believe that just because a story is being reported doesn’t mean its origin has to be explained. Just try finding the guy who wrote the Bible.

In a nutshell. Courtesy JustSayPictures.com

In a nutshell. Courtesy JustSayPictures.com

In this case, however, we’re dealing with what I assume can be called a ‘matter of national security’ involving two individuals who somehow get the same scoop despite the differences in their fields of expertise and ability to obtain information. Think about it: a journalist is typically active in interviewing witnesses, gathering police reports, detailing the facts and sprinkling as little personal opinion on their creation as possible. A blogger, meanwhile, typically writes from either personal experience or is inspired by journalistic posts online, reports on the news, et cetera. Unless the blogger is also an investigative journalist in disguise, I doubt they received the same story as the other guy.

Nevertheless, the details are not important. Should the blogger receive the same protection the journalist receives? I believe so, yes. To protect one person who writes a story over another who writes the same story, but later claim that the protected one is doing things lawfully is sort of like saying a certain type of couple can marry while the another cannot simply because the witnesses of their wedding aren’t sober or intelligent enough to qualify. It doesn’t matter how political the blog is or isn’t, whether it’s the first post or the five-thousandth; bloggers still deserve protection just the same as journalists. Moving on.

Because transitions are necessary to good blogging.

Because transitions are necessary to good blogging.

Scenario Two

 A blogger applies to receive press credentials so he can get into a political event. He is denied, because he’s “not a journalist,” even though many reporters are allowed in who have fewer readers than the blogger. Is that fair? Would it matter if, instead of news bloggers and newspaper reporters the same situation arose at a fashion show with a writer for a fashion magazine and a fashion blogger?

I’m going to just make this answer short and sweet. Sometimes life isn’t fair. That’s simply how it is. Many companies and organizations don’t look at experience if the credentials are missing. Just try getting a job as a robotic engineer without a college degree by saying you’ve spent twelve years of your life building robots in your parents’ basement. Chances are, you’re not going to be given access to NASA’s robotics department; you’ll be told to bugger off and come back if you have a degree. The same applies to any field which values credentials over experience or the enormity of your fan base. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

And what a bittersweet cookie it is. Courtesy Saveur.com

And what a bittersweet cookie it is. Courtesy: Saveur.com

To sum it all up, I would dare to reckon that bloggers are not journalists based solely on: the means in which they obtain information, the laws which they are (or are not) protected by, and the credibility or credentials they do or don’t possess.  Who knows: perhaps one day we’ll appreciate the intellectual capabilities of bloggers; until then,  we’ll lie in wait for our time to shine in the limelight like all those fancy journalists. Until then, happy blogging.

I’d Rather Be On Facebook

Prompts:

One of Shirky’s points is that the idea of a separation between “cyberspace” and the “real world” is increasingly becoming irrelevant– the real and virtual worlds are becoming one. Do you see this happening in your life or people you know? If so, what are some of the characteristics of this coming together?

When Shirky talks about the current revolution that is similar to the revolution of the printing press– giving many more the means to make and publish– he notes that it is similar but has significant differences. What are some of those differences?

How does the idea of operating in a culture of “abundance” differ from once of “scarcity?” Shirky notes that the idea of citizen reporters and journalists have changed the way we find out about news and events, using the London subway bombings as an example. The web has become a source of news that outpaces traditional media: is this a good thing? Where do you go for news that is happening right now as opposed to a week ago (or even yesterday)?

Courtesy of SmartPhoneExperts

The next time you’re out, take a moment to look around and count how many people you see on their mobile phones. Do the same at work. Repeat at school. If you’re in a town like Fairbanks, you’ll notice a horridly high proportion of people staring down at the little screens, typing away as they lose themselves in their virtual world. No longer do the boundaries between the ‘real’ world and the virtual ‘world’. It is understandable, though – with all the tweeting, status updates, and Farmville we have to pay attention to nowadays, how can we possibly feel as if we need to discern real life from cyberspace? Priorities are shifting, and with it comes a shift in where we place our reality. I mean, really: why go out to plant your own produce when you can sit in the warmth and safety of your home to farm online? At least you don’t have to get dirty when you’re staring at the computer screen.

We have entered the Twilight Zone, folks.Image courtesy Zynga.com

We have entered the Twilight Zone, folks. Virtual Reality at its finest.
Image courtesy Zynga

But why stop at Farming? Though plenty of games have been developed to meet our agricultural needs – Harvest Moon, Farmville, Tiny Farm, Farm Simulator 2013 – we now have access to plenty of other real-world simulators so that we can gain as much experience with typical skilled jobs without needing to leave our caves. Below are some of my personal favourites:

Yes, these are real. Thank you, Excalibur Publishing

Yes, these are real games. Thank you, Excalibur Publishing. I don’t know where I’d be without you.

These (along with hundreds of other titles from Excalibur, Namco, Zynga, and plenty of other companies) make me wonder exactly how blurred the line between reality and virtual reality is becoming. Perhaps some people are more far-gone than others, but I do believe that there has become an area of grey in-between the two worlds in which perhaps there is no differentiation between them. The progression of social gaming simulators like FarmVille or Farm Simulator is not unrivaled; social media in the form of profile pages and timelines are evolving at just as rapid a pace.

With each passing day, I see social media become more prominent in the world around me – most notably in the form of Facebook, despite my personal participation in the site being virtually zero. No, it is not I who spends hours looking at updates of what other people are posting (for such an activity, I use Tumblr), but rather the people I interact with on a day-to-day basis. Some typical questions or comments I receive may be phrased as:

“Did you see [Insert name of person I vaguely know] posted something about [insert social dilemma], and now he’s going to try and spread awareness by getting likes on his page? You should like it, too. I’ll send it to you soon.”

“I spoke with my [relative/old friend/former classmate/other (circle one)] last night on Facebook. I guess they got a rabbit that the cat really hates. They posted a video, it’s so funny, you should watch it.”

“Were you on Facebook? I thought I saw your profile as active again. Was it? Why didn’t you comment on my page?”

Makes me want to toss my phone off the Empire State Building.

Makes me want to toss my phone off the Empire State Building.
Courtesy CNN

Now, while these things are typically interesting to the teenagers who post them, they are practically commentary specifically geared to put me to sleep. No longer do I hear about how anyone went out to do something fun and productive with anyone else; it’s as if the social activity has somehow become perusing Facebook all night, and that socialization now includes the systematic series of comments, pokes, and posts a typical Facebook user creates during their time online.

As this social media dependence continues to grow, we see the means of obtaining news begin to shift as well. (As it turns out, the internet is virtually displacing the need for both reality and television; go figure.) Many young people will openly admit that they obtain their news from online sources – including Facebook. I will also openly admit that I get my news online through apps like Pulse – a News, Blog, Magazine, and Social reader – or sites like BBC News. It’s both easier on my schedule and my mind in this form, for nothing is more irritating than watching a news anchor interject their own beliefs or opinions into what should be simply facts about what is happening in the world. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Regardless, being able to go online and do a Google search for “North Korea Threats” and receive hundreds of results from hundreds of sites displays how abundant our media is becoming – and while the variety is nice to some, it is overall irritating. Who is right? Who is least biased? Who has the latest information? One has to sift through a few articles before painting a decent picture for themselves to figure out what the true story is. Alas, that is one of the fallacies of online media and the ability for people to publish on their own without filtering through a publisher. As Shirky points out, this abundance leads to a loss of quality in the things which we read or consume, a parallel to the revolution of the printing press. When we make the means to publish material more accessible to everyone, we see the content available become far more abundant yet of a lesser quality.

All in all, we are amidst our media revolution and still watching it evolve day to day. Perhaps we’ll watch a new form of publishing spring up soon enough to once again place an emphasis on standards – but that seems highly unlikely. Why care about publishers when you can simply type something up on WordPress and publish it for the world to see – and for free, at that!

Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus: A Brief Overview and Analysis

Prompt: Are you a television watcher? If so, how does that activity balance with your other “free time” activities? If not, why not? Do you participate in any web sites (other than those you participate in for this class) where you create or edit or contribute without being paid for it? What do you think Shirky means when he says “More is Different?” Are you buying the idea that, as stupid as they might be, LOLCATS represent something different and at least marginally better than passively watching television?

Although I spend a lot of my time idled by a computer screen, I often find myself steering away from watching television on a regular basis. As it stands, I only watch a select few shows (most of which are from the BBC and don’t end up airing for more than a few episodes per year). Instead, I participate actively in websites which specialize in sharing user-generated content above all else: Tumblr at the URL thellamadidit and DeviantArt at the username MusicalMadness are the top two in which I am most active. On both, I create my own drawings and graphics to share with other users without profit; it’s fun, engaging, and quite addictive. While Television is fine and dandy, participating in the online community feels like a more productive way to spend my free time. Therefore, the amount of TV I watch is minimal, but the amount of time I spend on the computer easily fills in all those free hours I have in my schedule.

Within his text, Clay Shirky talks about the concept of amassing a variety of things if there is more to consume – which he aptly entitles “More is Different.” This concept reins true enough; when you have more of something, you will see that a variety begins to flourish throughout the medium.

Example of Typical Sherlock Fan Art
Drawn by Reapersun

On Tumblr, there are Fandoms (fanatic domains) for shows such as Supernatural, Sherlock, Lord of the Rings, and Doctor Who. Within these fandoms, we see a plethora of user-generated content – from moving GIFs of the shows to fan art of the characters, we see more and more variety in the content. A prime example is within the Tumblr fandom of BBC’s Sherlock and the fan art produced for the show. As more users began to come together and collaborate, new genres of the story began to spring up. Things like Punk!Lock, Teen!Lock, Fawn!lock, and some NSFW stuff like BDSM!Lock or Omegaverse.

Fawn!lock by Reapersun

This influx of fans to the show brought in a plethora of new ideas which have inspired stories and artwork of all types alike. BBC’s Sherlock is not the only example of fans gone completely wild with creating these new AUs (Alternative Universe Storylines), but it does offer quite an impressive variety to choose from. In the case of this show, more is definitely very different.

While LOLCats is one of the most notably unproductive wastes of time on the net (in my very humble opinion) it is still more productive than sitting in front of the telly and wasting away watching programmes. With the internet, everything is participatory and interactive in a way that allows us to collaborate with others in order to form new stories, entertainment, and societies which all are bound by common interests. Even the humble LOLCat, with all its spelling errors and needless humour, is something which can be seen as marginally better than television; at least those participating in the site are doing something with their time.